Monday, February 25, 2013

My DIY Fancy French China Cabinet

That quarterly itch to repurpose a piece of furniture struck again and I'm excited to share my newest project with you. From the moment we painted our dining room the Ralph Lauren terracotta suede paint I knew that a large blue china cabinet would provide such a strong contrast against the wall.

I began scouring the local area thrift stores. If you're looking for furniture to give a second life to I'd suggest hitting up some of the religious based thrift stores. I've NEVER had any luck at our local Goodwill, in fact, I no longer even check it out. We have several Christian based thrift stores in the area that always have great furniture to choose from.

So the hunt was on and sure enough I discovered this little gem for $95!!!!

What I instantly noticed about this piece were the structured lines, the beautiful hardware, the glass shelves and the wood filagrees.

It had everything I wanted, glass shelves to display dishes, cabinets to store my crap, space above to install spotlights and enough raised wood decal to grab the stain effect that I had in mind.

Step 1- Chosing the right paint color. I am notorious for being impatient when it comes to painting a project and usually paint the first color I pick. This time, I did my homework. Since the only lighting source in the room is a chandelier and a whole bunch of natural light, I knew that I had to pick the right blue. I spent $15 on 3 different samples of blues, painted an old piece of wood and let it sit in the room for a couple of days. Testing out the colors in the afternoon with all the sunlight and in the evening with no light was extremely helpful. As you can see I even added the glaze effect so I could see which color would match best.

I chose Behr's Waterscape.

Step 2- Sanding. It seems so much more difficult than it is. I used my electric sander briefly and then realized hand sanding was far more effective in this case. You really only need to sand it down until the finish is gone, enough so that the paint will grab to the wood--trust me, don't go crazy. Taking off too much can be a bad, bad thing.

Step 3- Paint two coats, at least.

Step 4- Glaze. Knowing what type of finish you want is important in choosing the right paint color. I wanted a grayish-brownish finish added to the blue to make it look like an aged French piece. To achieve this I mixed together Martha Stewart's metallic black coffee glaze with a $1 acrylic brown paint from Michaels.

Using a rag, I'd rub the mixed glaze over the furniture and then use a clean cloth to wipe it off, leaving some streaks and a hint of the stain over the blue. Inconsistency is key here.

Make sure to let the glaze really settle into the grooves.

Step 5- Paint Hardware. Keeping in line with a French Provincial style piece, I wanted to fancy up the hardware and chose to repaint it with Martha Stewart's Vintage Gold metallic paint.

I love the contrast of the gold against the grayish-blue paint.

Step 6- Install spotlights. I purchased a $15 set of three under-cabinet lights from Lowe's and Eugene drilled some holes in the top to accomodate them. There was an existing flourescent light but it looked pretty tragic when turned on! This inexpensive update has had a huge impact on the overall look of the piece. We even included a dimmer switch on the lights and can adjust the light depending on the mood of the room.

Before and after

Overall, it turned out pretty great for a total cost of $130, right? I hope this encourages you to shop local and breathe some new life into something old.

It looks much more blue than it really is. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Candy Hearts and Cupid's Arrows: A Valentines Retrospective

In the 38 years that I've been hangin' around I've experienced 4 different types of Valentines Days.


The first can be signified by handwritten valentines for my classroom friends, be-mine edible hearts and candy lipsticks, which was my dad's go-to gift for my sister and me. I loved writing out all my Valentines, using my neatest of handwriting and dotting the i's with a little heart. While creating those cards was a tradition on it's own, nothing compared to receiving Valentine cards from my classmates. I remember coveting them like they were gold, reading and re-reading the cards, analyzing every signature, wondering if there was something more, something hidden in the way Matthew signed his name. Year after year, it was the same ritual and I adored everything about it.


This crossed my mind as I watched my kids address their Valentines cards.

Getting Mia to write "To: My friend From: Mia" 25 times on her Brave cards was tortuous. But by golly, the girl did it! With Bella, I tried to convince her to make some homemade Valentines this year but she insisted on the Tinkerbell store bought kind. My unwillingness to budge resulted in a compromise of sorts, a Tinkerbell card and a homemade bookmark. Deal? Deal.

I keep trying to tell my kids that one of the greatest gifts you can give someone is the gift of words. On the back of the bookmark I asked Bella to think of something special about each of her classmates and the end result had this mama smiling from ear to ear.

But my ultimate favorite was this one!


Once the giddyness of the grade school parties ended and it was no longer kosher to randomly deliver felt and doilied greetings to every friend in sight, a different type of Valentines took over. I recall this 2nd type of Valentine's Day as a very lonely one. Seriously, for a couple of years there Valentines Day sucked my will to live. With not a Valentine to call my own, it made this 20-something girl pretty sad. I remember wanting the damn day to end so I didn't have to think about not having anyone to share it with. And as much as I didn't want to let the Hallmark-of-it-all get to me, it did. And it hurt. Nothin' quite like getting Valentine's cards from your parents sent to your college apartment. Chocolate never tasted so bittersweet.

And then on February 14, 1998 my 23rd Valentine's Day, something amazing happened. I was in Ft. Wayne Indiana at a speech tournament and a fellow teamate and I decided to hang out at a restaurant across the street. We were just friends and I remember sitting at the bar bitching to him about another guy I was sorta dating at the time. We talked and talked and talked. It was the best "first" conversation I've ever had. The restaurant had long closed and the cleaning crew were finishing up yet all the while they let us be, not wanting to interrupt the obvious chemistry that was unfolding on this special night. 

For over 4 hours we sat at that bar talking and laughing and sharing. From the moment we left that bar, our friendship felt like something more, something really great. 

The truth is that my life forever changed that night and that's exactly how my story with Eugene began, on Valentine's Day 1998.


Fifteen years later to the day my kids woke to find little presents waiting for them. 

Yes, that is a new kitchen table. It's my newest thrift store find! $65--can you believe it?!!

I should have known that starting their day off with chocolate was only going to backfire and blow up in my face later on. You'd think I'd learn by now. 

Our V-Day breakfast

Chance had a little Valentine's party with his friends at the library story time.

He chose Spiderman Valentines and passed them out with the sweetest enthusiasm.

Mia and I had another wardrobe blowout this morning, like we do most mornings. She didn't like any of the red or pink options that I layed out for her and so I gave up and let her choose, see there's only so much I can deal with at 8 in the morning. And wouldn't ya know, the little shit came strutting out in an outfit WAY BETTER than the ones I chose for her. 

As frustrating as it can be dressing her, I secretly LOVE that she has her own style, her own preferences and that she does not back down! She's one-of-a-kind and I love that about her. Eugene and I are convinced she'll be a CEO one day, you just wait. 

I volunteered for Bella's classroom party and chuckled to myself watching all the kids pass out their cards. Watching Bella read and re-read her cards was like looking in the mirror.

I set up a photobooth at her class party and the kids loved all the props. I'm so thankful that another mom stepped in and took a picture of us, since I'll always have this reminder.


The third type of Valentine's Day that I've experienced was the one when you have a true love to share it with. Prior to our wedding, this was our anniversary date and so Valentine's Day was special for so many more reasons than just a romantic holiday. Year after year, we'd exchange heart felt words, a gift here and there, and a nice dinner out. A dinner where we'd undoubtedly reminisce about that first Valentines night at the bar. It's so great to have someone to love on Valentine's Day, right? 
A night to forget about life and to-do's and let the romance of it all sweep you away. This is what having a Valentine feels like.


After school Bella's Daisy Troupe volunteered their time at a local nursing home playing Valentine's Bingo and making every resident feel special.

The Daisies passed out homemade Valentine cards and door hangars, lighting up the faces of every resident in the room and confirming to us that regardless of age, it always feels good to be appreciated.

Despite an 80 year difference between the two of them, Bella and this woman found a real connection with one another. She loved getting Valentines's just as much as Bella did, just as much as I still do. It's seeing my kids in moments like these that make me so proud because they are really living this life, not just experiencing it, really feeling the beauty that's all around them. 


The last type of Valentines Day that I've experienced is that of a parent. It's amazing how much this holiday has changed since having kids and in such a good, heart-pounding, you've-got-all-of-me, soul-matey kinda way. It's funny--this feeling I experience towards them on this day--it's far different than the individual love I feel on their birthdays, no this is unique, all heart felt and mushy and I just adore every bit of it. They're my Valentines now so I soak it in as much as I can because it only happens once a year. And I'm not so sure that I should feel this giddy towards them on this day, but by God, I do.

Case in point, this is what I looked up to see as I waited in line to pick up Mia. This sweet and innocent little smile. A smile that tells me he's all mine. A smile that melts my heart. It almost brought me to tears when I saw it. Okay maybe that's my raging hormones talking but regardless, it was a moment between mother and son that was pure.


After an unbelievably exhausting day I thanked the gods that Eugene had our Valentines dinner all planned out. He kept it a surprise and after dropping off and picking up BOTH Mia and Bella at separate musical theatre practices, the thought of sitting in a restaurant at 7pm with the kids was overwhelming but Eugene assured me all will be okay.

Not knowing where we're headed we loaded up the car and Eugene took us 2 miles north and turned into the parking lot of McDonald's. I looked at him and he smiled his familiar smile and I knew why we were here. For a brief moment my tears started forming and he and I just stared at one another locked in our own little world.

You see, back in college he invited me over to his house for our first real dinner date. I was giddy with excitement at the thought that my boyfriend was going to cook dinner for me. Like an idiot I expected filet mignon or something fancy like that. When I arrived at his house, the lights were turned down, candles were lit on top of a pillowcase/table cloth on top of an overturned milk crate/table. A candle lit dinner on the floor--major bonus points. 

He excused himself to the kitchen to bring out the dinner and to my surprise he slowly handed me a plate adorned with a McDonald's Big Mac and french fries. With the sweetest of looks he humbly admitted to me that it was all he could afford. And that right there was the moment that solidified everything I'd come to know about Eugene, that no matter what comes our way in life, he'll find a way to make it special. So there we were, crazy in love, enjoying a candle lit McDonald's dinner. And friends, it was hands down one of my favorite dinner dates EVER!

Tonight, Eugene and I relished every bite of our Big Mac's (despite how crappy it is for us), let the kids get Happy Meals (which I never allow) and celebrated the fact that no matter how far we can come in life, we should always remember where we began.

Happy Valentines Day


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